Michigan employers are responsible for maintaining safety in the workplace. You must receive proper training and any equipment available to help you avoid on-the-job injuries. Your employer must also protect you from a hostile work environment. It’s important to know what constitutes hostility under state employment laws, as well as what you can do if such behavior is impeding your ability to do your job.
If another person’s behavior toward you is unwelcome and causes you to suffer discomfort, fear or intimidation in the workplace, you can file a complaint with your employer. If your employer is the one who is acting hostile, your situation may be more complex, but there are still resources available to help you resolve the problem. Always remember that the law is on your side and that you have a right to safety and fair treatment in the workplace.
Illegal versus inappropriate behavior in a Michigan workplace
Your employer or manager might be a complete jerk — rude, obnoxious and overly demanding, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a hostile work environment. While certain behaviors are uncalled for, ill-mannered and unprofessional, it doesn’t make them illegal. The following list shows the criteria a situation must meet to constitute a hostile work environment:
- Unwelcomed conduct that evokes fear, discomfort or intimidation
- Harassment or discrimination against protected characteristics
- Pervasive mistreatment
- Threats of punishment or retaliation
- Aggressive and consistent ridicule or victimization
Protected characteristics refer to your race, ethnicity, age, weight, gender or condition (such as pregnancy or a disability). Your employer cannot deprive you of opportunities for advancement in the company, for instance, simply because you are a female or are of a particular age or ethnicity. This is discrimination, which is a form of hostility. Also, if a co-worker, client or other person makes unwelcome advances toward you or is bullying you on a regular basis, this, too, meets the legal definition for a hostile work environment.
What can you do if you are suffering in a hostile work environment?
Hostility in the workplace can have adverse emotional, physical and professional implications that make it difficult (or impossible) to do your job. You might suffer from severe anxiety at the mere thought of going to work each day. You might be afraid to be alone in a room with a specific co-worker or executive team member at work.
Such situations are highly stressful, but you do not have to navigate them alone. You can enlist support from people who are well-versed in Michigan employment laws who can advocate on your behalf and help you seek a solution, even if it means going to court.